Mike Moutoux's Ranch Notes
I got to be friends with Randy Huston through music, and that has led to some invitations to help with ranch work from time to time. This month, I was up to help with a fence project when he lost his fencing crew and wanted to get a section done. Spring arrives in northern New Mexico sort of grudgingly; nights are still cold enough to leave frost on your windshield and our March winds have you wearing a winter jacket and digging sand out of your eyes for most of the day.
It is not a place to look for spring wildflowers in March; but new life is everywhere. The Corriente cows have some of the cutest calves you will ever see and it was the cattle that colored the landscape on this trip. Most pastures had calves, some less than a week old in them. Randy would put out some feed and take note of which cows had calves while I ran my camera. He’s good at understanding my desire to work as well as photograph, and I took a lot of photos without feeling awkward about it.
He had just a few animals that needed to be branded; and with the help of his brother, Tom, and his Dad, we made short work of that. They were just as happy to have me photograph the action as I was and we had a perfect weather day for that.
They took their time and I took a lot of photos. I enjoyed seeing the family work together. Families that work together have a kind of history unknown to other families. Their stories about their days growing up kept me entertained on the evenings that Tom was there.
One of the things that becomes clear as you ride with Randy is that he is always thinking and that one of the things he thinks about a lot is grass. He thinks about how to catch rain for it; how to put the right number of cattle on it; what kind it is and how old it is. He studies it more than most I think. I saw that managing cattle involves managing grass. I saw how cattle were good for grass causing it to grow thicker than the places which did not have cattle. I learned how this grazing actually benefitted other species like antelope and bighorn sheep.
Robert Frost knew that good fences make good neighbors. Absolutely. They also help you take care of cattle and the grass that many wild neighbors depend upon. The sand is mostly gone from my clothes and eyes, and the fence I helped rebuild will be managing grass for a long time. I’m happy about both: especially happy about that stretch of fence.